The Philadelphia Flyers may be sellers, but that doesn’t mean they are going to send all of their deadline assets packing. Instead of shipping out pending free agent Rasmus Ristolainen, the team has signed him to a five-year extension that carries an average annual value of $5.1MM. PuckPedia has the full breakdown:
- 2022-23: $4.0MM
- 2023-24: $5.5MM
- 2024-25: $6.5MM
- 2025-26: $5.5MM
- 2026-27: $4.0MM
From the moment they acquired him last offseason, sending Robert Hagg, a 2021 first-round pick (14th overall) and a 2023 second-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres, the Flyers have maintained that they brought in Ristolainen to keep him. An extension was always the preference, though after a nightmare season for the team, one in which Ristolainen once again put up terrible analytical metrics (and continued his notorious streak of negative performances), it wasn’t clear if the Flyers would move in a different direction and recoup some of the expended assets at the deadline.
Instead, they’ll be locking in the 27-year-old defenseman to a long-term deal that takes him well into his thirties. Ristolainen has 13 points in 49 games this season while averaging more than 21 minutes a night, almost all of those even-strength minutes coming beside Travis Sanheim. He hasn’t proven to be the offensive catalyst he was in Buffalo without the extensive powerplay time, but still does bring a high level of physicality and contributes to the penalty kill. General manager Chuck Fletcher explained:
Rasmus is an important part of our team and we are very happy to have him on our blue line for the next five years. He is committed to being a Flyer, and brings a consistent physical presence to our team.
It’s that size-skating combo that makes Ristolainen such an attractive defenseman in theory. The 6’4″ behemoth can move around the ice with ease, jump in on plays or catch attackers by surprise with a big open-ice hit. But his decision-making, rush, and in-zone defense have still left something to be desired after the move to Philadelphia, something that the team is obviously comfortable moving forward with.
When Flyers CEO Dave Scott explained that he was giving Fletcher a “blank check” to fix the Flyers, big free agent splashes were expected. The team is getting an early start on that market by locking up Ristolainen, though his new deal will actually come in a hair lower than the $5.4MM cap hit he currently carries. Claude Giroux, Derick Brassard, Justin Braun, Keith Yandle, Kevin Connauton, Nick Seeler, and others remain unsigned, meaning the team still has some trade deadline bullets to fire if they want to add some assets in the weeks to come.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet was first to report a deal was close.